Exercise : Morning all! I'm going to go for a swim at... - NRAS

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Morning all!

I'm going to go for a swim at the gym today, first time attempting exercise in over 8 months since my flaring started up again and RA hasn't been controlled for any sustained period.

I keep making excuses to avoid going, mainly because I'm scared any kind of physical activity will 'over-do it' and put me into a bad flare again. But I've decided to conquer that fear now and get motivated to move! What helps you get motivated?

22 Replies

Hi Savannahseger I have RA and just started swimming at weekends last November. It has helped alot on my legs as I felt they were becoming weak due to RA flares. Just take it easy at first is my advice. What helps me get motivated was I tried to climb a ladder last year and could hardly go up a single step due to my RA so I decided to strengthen my legs again. My meds have helped alot for me to do this. Hope this helps.

Hi t here, thank you! Good for you too :D It's so important to keep that strength up however we can. I'm hoping I don't chicken out later, but even just getting in for a little while is a start. Got to start somewhere! May last year I was running a Tough Mudder and doing weight lifting classes - completely lost that strength and confidence now so want to get back to it and feel like me again.


Good for you! Swimming is really good. I'd go more but my local pool is filthy! 😮

Savannahseger in reply to Hidden

Thank you! :) x

Hi Savannah! I can totally relate to your comment about lifting weights and being very physically active in the past, but being scared or uncomfortable now. While I still had a gym membership I would push myself to go to the pool, and while I always felt fantastic afterward, it's not the physical activity but getting undressed/dressed/drying my hair that really got to me, especially in the winter. I think my main tip is to try to imagine that part doesn't exist and focus on the activity itself, and then it is definitely worth it!

My membership ended a month or so ago and I'm in two minds about renewing it at the moment, so I've started doing some simple resistance band exercises at home. What I miss about weights the most is working on my bum, and the resistance bands offer at least some exercises which are not too hard on me and I can do without any pain. Here's another takeaway: I was always very used to going to the gym with the thought that I will do no less than 1.5 hours of exercise, or even two hours, and X amount of cardio and another X of weights. Obviously that habit of pushing myself is of no use right now, and I end up only pushing myself away from exercise in general. So what I've had to adapt to is new goals: I tell myself I'll stretch for 5 minutes and do 10 minutes of bum exercises. That's it! If I do only those 15 minutes, I still made myself feel better and reached a small goal. However if I'm in the mood and feel energetic, I can end up doing 45-60 mins of the exercises and feel great afterward. Listen to what your expectations sound like now and make sure they aren't an echo of something from the past. You'll do great!

Ah you've just completely explained my dread - i keep thinking, well if im so pained and fatigued just from walking home from work, how will walking to the gym, getting changed and ready for swimming exhaust my body? But I know the swimming will be worth it.

Resistance bands are a good idea! I would not want to do squats or anything like that for a long time.

That advice is actually so helpful! Especially about breaking the habit of thinking you need to push yourself. I will keep this in mind as I go forward, thank you so much! :) I'm seeing a physio next month too so I'm hoping he will give me some exercises. And I'm going to try yoga/pilates soon too!

The endorphins that are released and that 'feel good' feeling after doing exercise keeps me going, and happy! I am keeping symptoms well under control and still run 5 days a week. I would recommend as much physical activity as possible, certainly something that gets your heart rate up and joints moving. It's so good for you feels great!

Yes I hope to do lots of activity when my RA is completely under control, but whilst I'm still gently flaring now, I want to keep all my exercise soft and take each week as it comes. Small steps to get there : ) x

Swimming is the best thing you can do. It’s low impact on the joints. However, if like me, you have RA in your hands and wrists then any stroke with the force of water against your hands can be quite painful. When I have flare I swim in my back and kick with a gentle cupping of water. When I’m ok and feeling like my joints aren’t exploding, then a gentle breaststroke or crawl is great. Does the gym have a steam room you can use after the swim? That’s great too.

yes that's good to remember actually, I do sometimes get sort fingers while swimming so I will try different strokes. Yes there is a steam room, looking forward to it! xx

Hi! I’m glad you have decided to conquer that fear! Last week I have started pilates, three times a week... hope it will go well. What motivates me is spring season that is ahead, also skirts and dresses I want to wear :D

Ah please let me know how you get on, i want to start pilates too! Yes, spring and looking good in dresses is a motivation! xx

Dear Savannah, I have been practicing pilates for a month already. I go twice a week to a group session and once a week individualy. I have choosen slow intensity for the group class and it turned out to be toulerable for me. The individual session is of course more effective as I get all the attention only for myself. It happend I feld a shoulder pain but I would still go to pilates but would miss the exercises that require you to put pressure on hands. Till now it works good for me and I really enjoy this kind of exercises, the good results start to be seen: flexibility, a whole sensation of worked out muscles and better mood!!! As I said the trick I am using is missing the exercises that require pressure on the joint that hurts that day. Wish you good luck and let me know if you try it. By the way, how is swimming going?


That sounds so good. I still haven't found a class yet but it is on my agenda. After that swimming day, I actually flared badly and couldn't leave the house for a while. Now I'm back on steroids, I'm getting around and planning on going swimming again this week, wish me luck!

I think you're right about the pilates, only doing what you know your body will allow and not pushing tender joints.

Ohh, I wish you all the luck!! I’m sorry to hear you had flared badly but good you are getting better now and want to return to your activities!! Swimming is on my to do list also :)

Hi I’ve found going to the gym , Swimming and I also do body conditioning 2 a week helps me no end with my joints and mental well being, I haven’t been since Christmas time as have had a chest infection and cold virus but have been walking so I’m champing to get started again and come Monday I’m going to start again, mind don’t overdo things just break yourself in gently good luck xxx

Sounds great! Thank you for the advice :) x


Hi Savananna, good on you for getting back into swimming :) What motivates me is living alone and not having family. Best friends are not exactly close by. It’s a great motivator. Bit stuck at the moment because we’re having a dreadful run of weather with temps in excess of 35C - in fact, this coming Thursday we’ve a forecast for 45C 🙀!! Enjoy your swim, cheers Deb :)

Savannahseger in reply to Hidden

Yes it's good to focus on the people you want to see!

Were are you based? It's freezing here! x

Hidden in reply to Savannahseger

Adelaide, South Australia :)

I do aquafit twice a week, 20 mins stretching every morning & walking over the heath on the days I don’t swim. I used to do yoga until I had a problem with my shoulder joint. Now that’s on the mend (steroid injection & physio) I might try it again. I find if I over do it I suffer & if I don’t do enough I suffer so for me it’s a balancing act. Take it slowly.

Hi lovely, how did you get on with your swimming?

My diagnosis is quite new, and until I had a definitive "it's RA", I was focussing on increasing the weights in the gym and heavy bag training (even when my hand were swollen, as surprisingly they felt much better afterwards!) and just thought it's business as usual. Then I got diagnosed, had the patient education session, read all the materials that encourage gentle exercise, lower weights/high reps etc. and all that affected my mindset: I allowed myself to go easy, until my body analysis started showing a reduction in the muscle mass. The thought of losing muscle scared me more than the thought of pushing myself in the gym! If I have a bad day/flare up, I'll take it easy and do some yoga or gentle stretches, otherwise, I'll just focus on my usual training regime with some adjustments if I need to (e.g. if my knee is particularly painful, I focus on my upper body). I attended one of Nigel Arden's talks on arthritis and exercise and the main thing I got from it is that my joints are not going to get more damaged from exercise, which my Dr also agrees with. For me, the "high" from a workout and the long term benefits outweigh the discomfort I may feel the next day.

The other thing I make a priority every day is meditation. I use Headspace and they have a 30day pack on Pain Management, it's really helping me thinking differently about the pain.

Big hugs xx

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